A week and a half ago, I took an unexpected trip to Mississippi to see my daughter. The trip was a learning experience that opened my eyes to several specific things that are wrong with the world today. I believe they all fall under the heading of “compassion,” or rather, “lack of compassion.” We’ll see where my ramblings lead us this week.
Having lived in Vandalia, Ohio, my whole life, I’ve always gotten to the airport from U.S. 40. I’ve never had an opportunity to use the access road and never had a need to know which parking lot is where. However, this time, I was going to drive myself to the airport and park there. I could’ve taken the access road had I thought of it. Instead, I took the detour, which added at least five minutes to my drive and resulted in my not seeing the Economy Lot (it wasn’t where I imagined it to be). So, I parked in Short Term and spent an extra $40. When I pulled up to the parking lot gate, I saw that I needed a credit card to enter. My purse was in the trunk. So, the line of cars behind me had to wait while I got out of my car, retrieved my purse from the trunk, and fished out a credit card. From that point on, everything was smooth sailing. No hassles at security. No trouble finding my gate. No rushing around. The plane took off on time. We landed in Atlanta on time. Everyone stayed seated until the previous row exited. There was no pushing, no pressure. Someone helped me get my bag down. I was able to walk instead of run to the next gate. The next leg of the trip went the same way. It was the best experience I’ve ever had as far as flying and airports are concerned.
I read “When Faith is Forbidden. 40 Days on the Frontlines with Persecuted Christians” by Todd Nettleton during the flights. Through those stories, I felt like God was giving me words to tell my daughter, words that I felt would draw her to Him. Then Satan got to me.
As I typically did when renting a car, I went to the company with the shortest line. The woman asked me if I had a reservation and I said “No,” fully expecting it to be no big deal. She said they were out of cars. I stared at her in disbelief. She told me there was nothing she could do and I would be hard-pressed to find a rental car without a reservation.
So, I tried to reserve a car online but couldn’t connect to the internet. I called my daughter, who found only one company that had any cars available, but she couldn’t make a reservation for me because it wasn’t showing her a drop-off location near my destination. So, I went up to that customer service desk and said I didn’t have a reservation, but online showed they had some cars available. The woman said the website was lying. There was nothing she could do. “Good luck to you, though.”
My options were to take a Lyft to a car rental place in town, but we couldn’t confirm they had any cars either, and Lyft wasn’t even guaranteed to show up because of how backed up they were. I could take a cab to the bus station, a bus to Meridian, MS, and then a train to Hattiesburg or I could wait for a 5:00 p.m. flight leaving Jackson, go back to Atlanta, and then Atlanta to Hattiesburg, or have my daughter drive two hours to come pick me up. I opted for the cab-bus-train. At least it would get me out of the airport. It sounded like an adventure, and I like adventures.
I went outside and caught a cab. It ended up being so expensive. The taxi smelled like cigarette smoke and gave me a headache. I told the driver the trouble I had with renting a car and my new plan. He offered to drive me to Hattiesburg for $290. In hindsight, I wish I had said, “Okay.” He dropped me off at the bus station, gave me his business card, and told me to call him if it didn’t work out. I thought, “It’s a bus. How could that not work out?” He said, “Good luck to you.”
I sized up the building. All brick on the exterior with vines taking over. It looked like a part of town where one wouldn’t walk alone. But inside, it was reminiscent of the train station I remember going to as a child. Half of the building was a train station (there just wasn’t a train going where I was headed), and it even had a Union Station logo in the floor tile. Architecturally, it was very cool. Then I walked toward the back where the bus station was. On the left side of the corridor were abandoned shops and eating places. Through a gate, I saw what looked like a dead, decaying rat. The place was filthy and disgusting. Outside the bus station, a security guard said, “I know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for a place to eat.” I said, “No. I’m not hungry.” I thought, “I may never be hungry again.”
I bought a ticket for a bus that was supposed to leave at 2:06, so about an hour and a half wait. I went to sit down someplace that didn’t seem quite so filthy. The security guard told me they would start boarding at about 1:50. I updated my family on the plan. So as not to take any chances of getting stuck in Meridian, I made my train reservation online. I didn’t pay the extra $20 to ensure my ticket because I figured, what could go wrong?
Eventually, I had to go to the bathroom, which was worse than I had imagined. After that, I decided not to drink any more water until after I got to my hotel.
At 1:50, I went outside to wait for the bus. At 2:20, I asked someone if I had missed it and was told that they didn’t have a driver for that bus, so they had to wait until someone had enough time off from driving to take this route. I was told, “He should be here around 4:00.” The train left Meridian at 4:15, so I was going to miss it no matter what. I tried to get my money back on the bus ticket. The woman said she couldn’t do that and gave me customer service’s phone number. I called customer service and was told that they showed the bus was there at the station and was leaving at 2:30 (never mind that it was already 2:38); therefore, he could do nothing. I would have to email customer service. By this point, I was just sick of hearing people tell me there was nothing they could do.
I asked God, “Why? Why was this happening?” This was the complete opposite feeling of what I experienced on the plane. I no longer felt confident about my testimony. I lost the words I was ready to share with my daughter.
I decided to hire a Lyft driver to just take me all the way to Hattiesburg. I’d had enough. This time when I pulled up the app, it said my credit card had expired. So I tried to pay with PayPal. It said it couldn’t open the PayPal app. I added a credit card to my profile, and it was blocked by my credit card company twice, even after I verified it was me. I added another credit card, and it said it couldn’t process it. I tried three times until it finally accepted it. Lyft was on its way. The guy pulls up. I get in. He pulls to the end of the drive (approximately two car lengths long), zooms out on his phone to see where I’m going, and says, “Uh-oh.” I knew what was coming next. He apologized, but he couldn’t take me. He had to be somewhere at 4:30. He went around the drive and dropped me off at the door. He apologized again and said, “Good luck to you.”
The next Lyft driver was twelve minutes away. Suddenly, I started to feel funny about the idea. Five minutes later, he was still twelve minutes away, and five minutes after that, still no change. My uneasiness had really taken hold by then, so I canceled it. It said, “Are you sure? The driver is on his way.” So, I canceled the cancellation and stared at the screen. Seven minutes away. I couldn’t do it. I felt like the way my day had gone, I’d be kidnapped or something, so I canceled it for good. I called my daughter to come pick me up. Just so you know, she offered to pick me up when I landed, but I kept saying “no.” Another two hours spent in the filthy bus station, sitting on the most uncomfortable seat ever invented. I felt disgusting. I was dehydrated, hungry, exhausted. My head and neck were killing me.
But then, I got a call from my daughter. “I’m here.” The words immediately lightened my heart. All the trouble melted away. Did I go through all of this because God wanted me to have my daughter pick me up? Was it a lesson in obedience? From the time I landed to that moment, I never asked God what to do. I prayed for Him to keep me safe as I traveled, and He did that.
The drive from Jackson to Hattiesburg was pure bliss. I didn’t feel like it was the time to share the gospel or to say the things I thought God placed on me to say. Those words were gone anyway, and the circumstances weren’t what I anticipated. I felt that another time would be better, that God would give me words at the right time. Maybe that was me. Maybe that was Satan. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve missed my daughter, and it was well worth the torment to get to that moment when we could catch up. I praised God for getting me there safely and for keeping my daughter safe while we were apart.
At the time, I took all of the “Good luck to you” comments as being rather flippant, but once I made it through the ordeal, I was able to see that each person was showing compassion, however minimal. After all, there was nothing else they could do.
Fourteen hours after leaving my house, I finally arrived at my destination. Praise God.
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
1 John 3:17 ESV
Please join me this week in praying for compassion. Let’s pray that we show compassion to everyone we meet and that each one of them shows compassion to everyone they meet, and so on and so on. Ask the Lord to help us see what He sees in those who are difficult to show compassion to.